Dear members of the parish, and friends who are joining us from across the UK and further afield: it is good for us to be together. Even in these times of isolation we can find ways of being close, and so many of you have called the presbytery and are telephoning each other! The Internet allows us to be together through Facebook, Zoom, Skype, WhatsApp and many more apps besides, and it goes without saying that pen and paper still work as well today as they always have done! I wonder how many of us are rediscovering the joy of receiving a letter from a friend…. and how many of us want to give that delight to others by sending a little something in the post?
In that spirit of communication then, I hope this letter will serve to update you on many things from our parish.
On line videos/web streaming
Our YouTube channel is proving very popular and I’m delighted that so many of us are able to participate.
As well as live-streaming, videos are being added each week – do please subscribe to the channel and keep an eye on it because more uploads are on their way (and you can watch these videos at any time!).
You may like to know how many people are tuning in to our liturgies. On a weekday we’re averaging 52 devices watching – that’s laptops, iPads, Smart TVs etc. This means that, if each device is being watched by two people, then we have a daily Mass attendance of about 100. On Sunday mornings the number of individual devices watching increases to about 220. I expect many of the extra devices tuning in are owned by families, with maybe three or four people sitting around one device – so potentially we could have a digital congregation of 500 of more!
This Sunday is Palm Sunday and our 10:00am Mass will include the blessing of Palm Branches. For those of you who have given your address to the parish office, I shall post a palm cross to you once it has been blessed.
How can we celebrate Palm Sunday at home? One idea, given by the Missionaries of the Holy Spirit, is that each of us could decorate our front door with a branch from the garden. So why not? It could be a project for all the family to get involved with.
A branch can be cut from a plant or plants, and then arranged together and decorated with coloured ribbon (the liturgical colour of the day is red, the colour of martyrdom). Someone in the household might like to read the story of Christ’s entry into Jerusalem. The family could gather by the door of the house and, if they have Holy Water, could sprinkle the branches with it. Perhaps you could be creative and devise your own way to celebrate Palm Sunday at home?
The Chrism Mass
This year the Chrism Mass will not be celebrated in Holy Week, but it might be transferred to another day in the year. It is during the Chrism Mass that the priests of the diocese renew the promises they made on their ordination day. This year, all the priests have been sent a revised form for renewing their promises. If you would like to listen to me renew my own ordination promises, it will be broadcast on Monday of Holy Week (the 6thApril). That day is also the anniversary of my own priestly ordination at St Joseph’s Cathedral.
The Sacred Triduum
This year the liturgies of Holy Week will be much reduced, but they will still take place. The Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments has issued some guidance to the clergy. In summary the text says:
The faithful should be informed of the beginning times of the celebrations so that they can prayerfully unite themselves in their homes. Means of live (not recorded) telematic broadcasts can be of help. In any event it remains important to dedicate an adequate time to prayer, giving importance above all to the Liturgia Horarum – the Liturgy of the Hours.
Palm Sunday. The Commemoration of the Lord’s Entrance into Jerusalem is to be celebrated within sacred buildings; in parish churches the third form is to be used.
Holy ThursdayThe washing of feet, which is already optional, is to be omitted. At the end of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper the procession is also omitted and the Blessed Sacrament is to be kept in the tabernacle.
Good Friday. In the Universal Prayer, Bishops will arrange to have a special intention prepared for those who find themselves in distress, the sick, and the dead. The adoration of the Cross by kissing it shall be limited solely to the celebrant.
The Easter Vigil: Is to be celebrated only in Cathedral and parish churches. The preparation and lighting of the fire is omitted, but the Paschal candle is lit. For the “Baptismal Liturgy” only the “Renewal of Baptismal Promises” is maintained.
By mandate of the Supreme Pontiff for the year 2020 only.
Many of you are aware that Fr Matt is no longer resident with me in the presbytery – instead he is living in the presbytery at Tenby. Fr Mansel, the parish priest of Tenby, has been on bereavement leave and can no longer return to the parish owing to conditions of social isolation. In addition, Fr Matt and myself decided to live separately so that, should one of us become ill, the other would still be able to carry out duties such as the last rites and funeral services. Fr Matt and myself are often in contact and I’m pleased to report that he’s keeping well. He writes: “Tenby Parishioners have been so warm. People are so kind! That’s what’s struck me in lockdown – a few Haverfordwest parishioners have phoned here too asking after me.” Many blessings to Fr Matt and all the people of Tenby parish.
Our seminarian Greg Beckett is currently living in the presbytery as his seminary is closed. Here he has the space to continue in his studies via video link, but he is also serving at Mass and helping me out by doing lots of little tasks. Now, where did I leave that duster…?
Some time ago you will recall that all the parish records had to be updated and all personal information had to be re-consented to. The parish used to have a very extensive address book and it was very easy to contact you. However, only a limited number of people updated their details and consented to them being kept by the parish. I’m not sure why there wasn’t a bigger take up, but I know there are people in the parish who would love to receive a telephone call from me, or would like to receive a palm cross in the post, but wont. My contacting parishioners isn’t possible without their prior, written consent. In fact, if a registered charity (such as the diocese) cold calls, then it has broken the law. It breaks my heart when I think I’d like to call someone who comes to Mass each week – yet when I go to the file, that person hasn’t filled in the consent form.
So I have to ask – does the parish have yourdetails, or are you missing out? Please find a GDPR form here. You can print it off, fill it in, and post it to me. Or, if you know a person in the parish who is not online (and therefore hasn’t seen this) perhaps you could give them a call and ask them if they have consented to their information being kept? You might even post the GDPR form to them so that they can fill it in. Completed forms should be returned to 9, Fountain Row, Barn Street, Haverfordwest. SA611SX
Also, be careful how you fill it in; there are people who have wanted to consent to me holding their address – and then haven’t told me where they live.
Here’s an example:
I look forward to updating the parish records with your information.
Parish Quiz Night
The parish is hosting an on-line video-conferencing Quiz Night! Anyone can join in (up to a maximum of 100 people!!)
The quiz will be hosted on Zoom. To use Zoom you will need to download it from Zoom.us
It’s very simple to use and it’s free.The quiz will take place at 7:00pm on Saturday 4thApril.
How does it work? Families will gather around their computer/iPad/smart TV etc. and will need pen and paper to jot down their answers. Just before 7:00pm a code number (called a ‘meeting ID’) will be posted on the parish facebook page/website. Make a note of the Meeting ID and open Zoom. You will see this screen:
Click on the “join” button (top right), and you will be invited to type the meeting ID number into this box:
Once you’ve typed in the meeting ID number click “join” (bottom right) and a video link screen will appear. You’re now live to the quizmaster and all the other participants. You may want to turn your microphone off so that you can talk as a family, without the other participants hearing your answers!! Make sure you have pen, paper, nibbles and drinks to hand!
It’s a bit of fun – and I’m not sure how well it’s going to work – but lets give it a try at least. The prize is the kudos of knowing that your family team beat all the other parish families.
To an empty St Peter’s Square, the Pope yesterday delivered an address Urbi et Orbi. Normally given on Christmas Day and Easter Sunday, these are messages given to the City of Rome and to all the peoples of the world (Urbi = The urban city, Orbi = the globe).
In his address he reflected upon the calming of the storm from the Gospel of Mark, before paying before the Blessed Sacrament. Here are the Pope’s words translated into English.
“When evening had come” (Mk 4:35). The Gospel passage we have just heard begins like this. For weeks now it has been evening. Thick darkness has gathered over our squares, our streets and our cities; it has taken over our lives, filling everything with a deafening silence and a distressing void, that stops everything as it passes by; we feel it in the air, we notice in people’s gestures, their glances give them away. We find ourselves afraid and lost. Like the disciples in the Gospel we were caught off guard by an unexpected, turbulent storm. We have realized that we are on the same boat, all of us fragile and disoriented, but at the same time important and needed, all of us called to row together, each of us in need of comforting the other. On this boat… are all of us. Just like those disciples, who spoke anxiously with one voice, saying “We are perishing” (v. 38), so we too have realized that we cannot go on thinking of ourselves, but only together can we do this.
It is easy to recognize ourselves in this story. What is harder to understand is Jesus’ attitude. While his disciples are quite naturally alarmed and desperate, he stands in the stern, in the part of the boat that sinks first. And what does he do? In spite of the tempest, he sleeps on soundly, trusting in the Father; this is the only time in the Gospels we see Jesus sleeping. When he wakes up, after calming the wind and the waters, he turns to the disciples in a reproaching voice: “Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” (v. 40).
Let us try to understand. In what does the lack of the disciples’ faith consist, as contrasted with Jesus’ trust? They had not stopped believing in him; in fact, they called on him. But we see how they call on him: “Teacher, do you not care if we perish?” (v. 38). Do you not care: they think that Jesus is not interested in them, does not care about them. One of the things that hurts us and our families most when we hear it said is: “Do you not care about me?” It is a phrase that wounds and unleashes storms in our hearts. It would have shaken Jesus too. Because he, more than anyone, cares about us. Indeed, once they have called on him, he saves his disciples from their discouragement.
The storm exposes our vulnerability and uncovers those false and superfluous certainties around which we have constructed our daily schedules, our projects, our habits and priorities. It shows us how we have allowed to become dull and feeble the very things that nourish, sustain and strengthen our lives and our communities. The tempest lays bare all our pre-packagedideas and forgetfulness of what nourishes our people’s souls; all those attempts that anesthetize us with ways of thinking and acting that supposedly “save” us, but instead prove incapable of putting us in touch with our roots and keeping alive the memory of those who have gone before us. We deprive ourselves of the antibodies we need to confront adversity.
In this storm, the façade of those stereotypes with which we camouflaged our egos, always worrying about our image, has fallen away, uncovering once more that (blessed) common belonging, of which we cannot be deprived: our belonging as brothers and sisters.
“Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” Lord, your word this evening strikes us and regards us, all of us. In this world, that you love more than we do, we have gone ahead at breakneck speed, feeling powerful and able to do anything. Greedy for profit, we let ourselves get caught up in things, and lured away by haste. We did not stop at your reproach to us, we were not shaken awake by wars or injustice across the world, nor did we listen to the cry of the poor or of our ailing planet. We carried on regardless, thinking we would stay healthy in a world that was sick. Now that we are in a stormy sea, we implore you: “Wake up, Lord!”.
“Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” Lord, you are calling to us, calling us to faith. Which is not so much believing that you exist, but coming to you and trusting in you. This Lent your call reverberates urgently: “Be converted!”, “Return to me with all your heart” (Joel 2:12). You are calling on us to seize this time of trial as a time of choosing. It is not the time of your judgement, but of our judgement: a time to choose what matters and what passes away, a time to separate what is necessary from what is not. It is a time to get our lives back on track with regard to you, Lord, and to others. We can look to so many exemplary companions for the journey, who, even though fearful, have reacted by giving their lives. This is the force of the Spirit poured out and fashioned in courageous and generous self-denial. It is the life in the Spirit that can redeem, value and demonstrate how our lives are woven together and sustained by ordinary people – often forgotten people – who do not appear in newspaper and magazine headlines nor on the grand catwalks of the latest show, but who without any doubt are in these very days writing the decisive events of our time: doctors, nurses, supermarket employees, cleaners, caregivers, providers of transport, law and order forces, volunteers, priests, religious men and women and so very many others who have understood that no one reaches salvation by themselves. In the face of so much suffering, where the authentic development of our peoples is assessed, we experience the priestly prayer of Jesus: “That they may all be one” (Jn 17:21). How many people every day are exercising patience and offering hope, taking care to sow not panic but a shared responsibility. How many fathers, mothers, grandparents and teachers are showing our children, in small everyday gestures, how to face up to and navigate a crisis by adjusting their routines, lifting their gaze and fostering prayer. How many are praying, offering and interceding for the good of all. Prayer and quiet service: these are our victorious weapons.
“Why are you afraid? Have you no faith”? Faith begins when we realise we are in need of salvation. We are not self-sufficient; by ourselves we flounder: we need the Lord, like ancient navigators needed the stars. Let us invite Jesus into the boats of our lives. Let us hand over our fears to him so that he can conquer them. Like the disciples, we will experience that with him on board there will be no shipwreck. Because this is God’s strength: turning to the good everything that happens to us, even the bad things. He brings serenity into our storms, because with God life never dies.
The Lord asks us and, in the midst of our tempest, invites us to reawaken and put into practice that solidarity and hope capable of giving strength, support and meaning to these hours when everything seems to be floundering. The Lord awakens so as to reawaken and revive our Easter faith. We have an anchor: by his cross we have been saved. We have a rudder: by his cross we have been redeemed. We have a hope: by his cross we have been healed and embraced so that nothing and no one can separate us from his redeeming love. In the midst of isolation when we are suffering from a lack of tenderness and chances to meet up, and we experience the loss of so many things, let us once again listen to the proclamation that saves us: he is risen and is living by our side. The Lord asks us from his cross to rediscover the life that awaits us, to look towards those who look to us, to strengthen, recognize and foster the grace that lives within us. Let us not quench the wavering flame (cf. Is 42:3) that never falters, and let us allow hope to be rekindled.
Embracing his cross means finding the courage to embrace all the hardships of the present time, abandoning for a moment our eagerness for power and possessions in order to make room for the creativity that only the Spirit is capable of inspiring. It means finding the courage to create spaces where everyone can recognize that they are called, and to allow new forms of hospitality, fraternity and solidarity. By his cross we have been saved in order to embrace hope and let it strengthen and sustain all measures and all possible avenues for helping us protect ourselves and others. Embracing the Lord in order to embrace hope: that is the strength of faith, which frees us from fear and gives us hope.
“Why are you afraid? Have you no faith”? Dear brothers and sisters, from this place that tells of Peter’s rock-solid faith, I would like this evening to entrust all of you to the Lord, through the intercession of Mary, Health of the People and Star of the stormy Sea. From this colonnade that embraces Rome and the whole world, may God’s blessing come down upon you as a consoling embrace. Lord, may you bless the world, give health to our bodies and comfort our hearts. You ask us not to be afraid. Yet our faith is weak and we are fearful. But you, Lord, will not leave us at the mercy of the storm. Tell us again: “Do not be afraid” (Mt 28:5). And we, together with Peter, “cast all our anxieties onto you, for you care about us” (cf. 1 Pet 5:7).
Saturday is often a day of devotion to Our Lady. As such, tomorrow our Mass will commence at 12noon with the Angelus. It will be celebrated at the Church of the Immaculate Conception at Narberth, the second church of this parish. Find it on our Parish YouTube Page
During the Papal Address “Urbi et Orbi” (to Rome and the World) given at Rome a few moments ago, the music played as the Pope gazed on the icon of Mary was this:
Sub tuum praesidium confugimus, Sancta Dei Genetrix. Nostras deprecationes ne despicias in necessitatibus nostris, sed a periculis cunctis libera nos semper, Virgo gloriosa et benedicta. Amen.
We fly to Thy protection, O Holy Mother of God; Do not despise our petitions in our necessities, but deliver us always from all dangers, O Glorious and Blessed Virgin. Amen.
The ‘Sub tuum praesidium’ is from the 3rd Century and is the world’s oldest hymn to Our Lady. It has often been mentioned by Pope Francis, and he said that it should be sung “in moments of spiritual turbulence [when we should] shelter beneath the mantle of the Holy Mother of God pronouncing the invocation ‘Sub Tuum Praesidium’.
Please find below the Order of Service for tonight’s sung Vespers. We begin the webcast at 6:30pm.
The service of Vespers commences with a hymn which is followed by three Psalms. The Psalms are sung using Gregorian Chant, and the notes are printed with the text for those who can read music. Even if you cannot read music, it should be easy to join in because the cantor leads one verse, while everybody else sings the next. This pattern of alternate singing then continues: Cantor, then everybody. Cantor then everybody… etc. Fr Liam will be the Cantor tonight, with Fr Matt leading the congregation’s part. Please join in with Fr Matt’s singing.
A Short Reading and Responsory follow, as printed in the Order of Service. After this the altar is venerated with the burning of incense, while together we all sing the prayer of the Magnificat. This is the prayer Mary recited when she met Elizabeth; and John the Baptist leapt for joy in her womb. A series of bidding prayers follows before we conclude with the Lord’s Prayer and Final Blessing.
The service concludes with the Marian Anthem which we have been singing at the end of Sunday Mass.